Closed on Christmas???
Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, said church leaders decided that organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994, and only a small number of people showed up to pray, she said. "If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" she said.
This bothers me on multiple levels. First, the last time I checked, no NT writer ever made mention of canceling a missionary trip because it wouldn't be 'the most effective use' of resources. What about gospel proclamation? How does that weigh into the equation? Have we become so consumer oriented that we are more concerned with efficiency than with obedience. I'm not trying to be legalization about this. I don't think canceling services on Christmas will bring judgment upon churches. Their reasoning, however, that it is not efficient to be open is less than biblical or persuasive.
The second problem I have with this statement is Parkinson's misunderstanding of the purposes of the church gathered and the church scattered (I don't fault only her on this; this is a categorical mistake most, if not all, seeker-sensitive churches as well as many other churches make). It is not the purpose, as I see in the NT, of the church gathered to 'reach the unchurched'. The audience of every NT document (barring the gospels, Acts, and Philemon) is either to a local church, to a pastor/elder of such a church, or contains letters to churches within the larger letter (i.e., Revelation). In all of these settings, the primary exhortation is directed towards believers. The letters, being written to the churches, show no hint of a mixed congregation of believers and non-believers. There seems to be absent any idea that the church is expected to be full of non-believers on a week to week basis. Evangelism is one of the expectations for the church scattered, not for the church gathered.
Does this mean unbelievers are unwelcome in a weekly worship service? By no means. However, to structure an entire philosophy of ministry around attracting the unchurched seems to make for an uneven balance, not to mention is totally absent from the NT. If churches exhort believers during times of gathering, the disciples will naturally make evangelism part of their daily interaction with the unchurched: witnessing at work, the gym, or the grocery store. To close churches on Christmas is to miss the point of the entire gathering of the church, for the celebration of the coming, obedient sinless life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.
Who cares if the lost won't come to church that day? I'm sure I'll receive some criticism for this, but the church shouldn't concern itself with how many lost people come every week. Can they come, Yes. Should we cater our schedule to them, No. The church is comprised of those who have surrendered to Christ. Times of worship are for our encouragement, prayer, fellowship, and communion with Christ. Worship is not for lost people. Churches need to understand the differences in mission/purpose between the church gathered and the church scattered.
posted by Jason Sampler at 6:47 PM